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New England News

Rail Car Factory Plans Move Forward

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WAMC
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A Chinese company has purchased property in Springfield, Massachusetts where it plans to build a factory to make new subway cars for the greater Boston area’s public transit system, the MBTA.  Springfield city officials hope the factory marks a rebirth of large-scale local manufacturing.

CNR MA, the U.S. subsidiary of Changchun Rail Vehicles, paid $12 million for a 40-acre industrial parcel on Springfield’s east side, where it plans to build a $60 million factory. The plant will be the North American base for the company, which is the world’s largest maker of passenger rail cars.

Company spokesperson Lydia Rivera said construction of the factory is scheduled to start in the spring of 2016 with production to begin in early 2018. Initial employment is estimated to be 150 people.

" This is an exciting time. It is a huge milestone. The site is leveled, cleared and ready for construction," she said.

CNR MA was awarded a $566 million contract last year from the MBTA to design and build 284 new subway cars.  The new vehicles will replace cars that have been in use on the system’s Red Line and Orange Line since the 1960s.   Aging equipment was cited by T officials as a factor in this winter’s massive service disruptions.

A lawsuit has been filed against the state by several unsuccessful bidders for the MBTA work seeking to overturn the contract award to CNR MA.

" I would not comment on that litigation, but CNR MA was awarded the contract and we are confident we can fulfill it," said Rivera.

Rivera said the Springfield project will include a 200,000-square foot assembly facility and 2,240-linera foot test track. The plant will include space for engineering, research and development, and administrative offices.   There will be room to expand as the company pursues more business in North America.

" CNR MA does plan to build on other projects and that would be great for Springfield and obviously keep the workers working," said Rivera.

Kevin Kennedy, the city of Springfield’s chief development officer, said the rail car factory project has grown since it was first pitched to city officials about a year ago.

" It all portends very well for the city of Springfield and the idea that manufacturing is coming back to Page Blvd. is great for us and great for CNR," he said.

The Page Blvd. site was once a manufacturing center for Westinghouse. Before that it housed the Stevens-Duryea automobile plant, the first mass production auto plant in the U.S.

Kennedy said talks are under way with company officials about a tax increment financing plan for the project, which would essentially discount the local taxes on the new factory for a period of several years.

"But there will be no reduction in the agreed upon property tax that the city will be using as a base, so the city will do very well from any perspective," he said.

Kennedy said the tax agreement will go to the Springfield city council for a vote this summer.

The rail car factory site on Page Blvd. had been purchased in 2011 for $16 million by Ameristar, which had most of the buildings torn down.  The company announced plans to build a casino on the property, but then dropped out of the city’s casino competition, which was eventually won by MGM.

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